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Informed Opinions on Today’s Topics : Jewish Leaders Assess Future of Israeli State

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With three bullets fired at point-blank range, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was killed 10 days ago.

The student who allegedly fired the gun said he was trying to derail the peace process with Israel’s Arab foes, chiefly an accord signed with Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat giving territories occupied by Israeli forces Palestinian control.

For the first time in its 47-year history, an Israeli head of state has been killed by a fellow Jew. In the days following the assassination, Israeli investigators have uncovered what they call a right-wing conspiracy in the death of Rabin.

What is Israel’s future following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin?

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Jonathan Cookler, president of the Valley Alliance of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles:

“I think that the Israeli government will continue with the peace effort and I think that Israel and the world has learned a very difficult lesson: that violent words begat violent actions and that we as the community have to work against people in the extremes that are both on the left and the right to moderate those views so that a consensus will be reached.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

“I think the challenge right now for Israel is that you have a society that’s split pretty much down the middle in a number of ways. You have secular versus religious. Politically you have . . . two camps on how to deal with Palestinians and how to obtain peace with their neighbors. I think that Israel’s first generation prided itself as being an incredibly open society . . . Unfortunately, that Jewish bullet [means] those days are gone. Israel has reached a more normal existence . . . The other question, which is more serious, is how can Israel, which prides itself on its democratic discourse, bring back the debate and discussion in an air of civility? . . . There needs to be a collective, individual soul-searching . . . The most important question right now is whether or not the soul of the Jewish people can emerge from this crisis healed and a little stronger.”

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Rabbi Richard Levy, executive director of the Los Angeles Hillel Council:

“I’m an optimist and I think in some ways that Israel’s future is more hopeful because I think people have had to look in the face of violent tendencies within its society, which of course exists in every society. It’s always better when something comes out into the light rather than remains hidden, and people have seen the results of solving deep philosophical and political issues by violence . . . There have been assassins at other crucial periods in its history, not a prime minister before, but the Jewish settlements there have known violence. . . . But I think the country will be more vigorous against those tendencies.”

Roni Blau, director of the Valley Anti-Defamation League: “This tragic event should be a wake-up call to all democracies to the threat posed by uncompromising ideologues. Individuals who view themselves as above the law and think they answer only to their God are anathema to our democratic principals.”


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